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Dignitatis Humanae: More Relevant Than Ever

St. William Church, Naples, FL

I. Introduction

A. Thank you, Nancy, for your kind introduction and for your gracious welcome. I am happy to see so many friends and former colleagues in the audience today. Present today are two individuals with whom I was privileged to work closely during my years as Bishop of Bridgeport: Marylee MacDougal & Nancy Matthews. Both served as chancellors and both are pioneering leaders in the Church. Thank you for your service and for your presence here this afternoon.

B. In 2009, the Church in Connecticut faced a significant religious freedom challenge. Legislation was proposed to reorganize Catholic parishes. Flying under the innocuous banner of “corporate forms” – in essence this bill would have sidelined the pastors from parish administration and instead mandated that this be done by an elected committee. Needless to say, the bishop would have been merely a figurehead. Fortunately the Catholic Church in Connecticut mobilized and Nancy Matthews played a tremendous role in making that happen. A few days after this infamous bill was proposed, we held a large rally on the steps of the capitol, and assembled expert testimony on the unconstitutionality of the proposed law. Happily, the bill was withdrawn.

C. Well, that song was ended but the melody lingered on. It dawned on me and many others that we could no longer take religious freedom protections for granted. So I wrote a pastoral letter on religious freedom, and in the meantime, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops received reports of religious freedom violations from many parts of the country. The bishops made the defense of religious freedom a priority and established the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Challenges to religious freedom will be with us for a long time to come. If anything, they are growing in number and intensity.

D. That reality underlies my title: “Dignitatis Humanae: More Relevant than Ever.” The Latin language reference in my title means, “Of Human Dignity” and it is the official name of the Declaration on Religious Freedom issued by the II Vatican Council on December 7th, 1965, some fifty years ago. The world has changed dramatically during the past five decades, yet the teaching in this declaration is more important and necessary than ever.

My plan for today’s talk is simple: first I will offer a summary of the basic ideas in the declaration; then briefly review three major challenges to religious freedom noting how they are addressed in Dignitatis Humanae; finally, I will offer a few suggestions on what we might do to defend and advance religious freedom at home and abroad.

II. Cliffs Notes on Dignitatis Humanae: Three Preliminary Questions

A. Let me begin with basic teachings in Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom of the Second Vatican Council, if you will, a Cliffs Notes version of that document. If you don’t mind, I’ll refer to that document by its initials “DH” for the remainder of my talk; it may go easier on your ears. Let’s begin with three preliminary questions that will help guide us in understanding this important council document.

B. First, let’s ask if the Church had ever spoken about religious freedom prior to the Second Vatican Council and the answer is “yes”. For example, in the late 19th century Pope Leo XIII championed the freedom of the Church with the rise of antireligious ideologies and political developments such as Bismarck’s Kulturkampf. So also, Pope Pius XI defended the Church’s religious freedom with the rise of totalitarian governments in Europe in the 20’s and 30’s. His successor, Pope Pius XII likewise defended the Church’s liberty as well as the rights and freedoms of the victims of World War II. (As an aside, I note a recently published book, A Church of Spies, by Mark Riebling, which tells the story of Pius XII’s role in plots against Hitler’s life…it’s a good read.)

C. That said DH is the first official Church document solely on religious freedom, and it is the first time an ecumenical council dealt with it. So, why did the Council decide to take up this subject? In the late 1950’s the memory of World War II was fresh, especially the atrocities committed against Jews and Catholics in the Holocaust. Religious freedom was all but denied to many who lived behind the Iron Curtain. Secularism and atheism were on the rise – those of us with miles on our odometers might remember the 1966 cover of Time magazine emblazoned with the words: “IS GOD DEAD”. Along with such bad news, there was some good news. At the time, the American experiment of religious freedom was working well. Many developing countries were yearning for freedom, including religious freedom. In convoking the II Vatican Council Pope John XXIII proposed to bring the Church into closer contact with the conflicts and yearnings of a global culture by looking more deeply into her own Tradition so as “to read the signs of the times and interpret them in light of the Gospel” (GS, 4).

D. Second, the proposal for a document on religious freedom was controversial. Why did some in the Church oppose it and on what grounds? I think it’s fair to say that most of the opposition came from countries where the Catholic Church had been the established church, e.g., Spain and Italy. Some also opposed the early drafts of the document on religious freedom on the grounds that “error has no rights” – to paraphrase Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors. A more accurate formulation is that “truth alone has a right to freedom whereas error may be ‘tolerated’ for the sake of avoiding a greater evil.” In other words, the proposed document on religious freedom met with concern that it would encourage religious indifferentism. In defending the religious freedom of all people and of all religions was the Church surrendering her claim to the fullness of truth? And was she inadvertently saying that one religious faith is as good as another? Fortunately that was not the case, as we’ll see when we look at the content of DH.

E. Let us ask one more question before we get into the actual content of the document. Were there developments in Catholic thought that paved the way for the declaration on religious freedom? Indeed there were! The 20th century produced some of the most brilliant minds in the Church’s history – and without their groundbreaking efforts the Council would not have been possible. While they had differing areas of expertise and differing approaches to theology, their efforts converged to produce a more theological account of human dignity. The Church had always taught that life was sacred and that humans could reason to the existence of God even without faith. Many twentieth century Catholic thinkers, however, went further. They retrieved the teaching of Scripture and early Christian writers on the desire for God in the depths of the human person and saw this innate capacity for truth and desire for God as the basis of the dignity of the human person. By dint of being human, each person has an innate relatedness to God, even in spite of original sin and even prior to Baptism, or any religious commitment. What sets human beings apart from all other creatures is not merely the size of their crania or the fact of opposing thumbs, but rather a universal, in-born aspiration for a love and a life that is infinite. Thus, human dignity is transcendent in its source and summit, namely God. Human rights and dignity are not granted by any earthly power but are God’s gift. That is why the first words of the declaration on religious freedom are “dignitatis humanae” – “of human dignity”.

III. Cliffs Notes on Dignitatis Humanae: Questions on Content

Let’s move on to the content of DH and here too let me pose three questions:

A. First is this: How does the document understand religious freedom? As you know, the word “freedom” has many meanings. For example, it often means “freedom of choice” – in this case – the freedom to choose one religion over another or no religion at all. DH, however, describes religious freedom as more than mere freedom of choice.

1) The first description of religious freedom in DH is freedom from coercion: After declaring that the human person has a right to religious freedom, it says: “Such freedom consists in this, that all…should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups or any human power, so that no one is forced to act against his conscience in religious matters, or prevented from acting according to his conscience in private or in public, whether alone or with others, within due limits” (DH, no. 1).

2) This description of religious freedom as “freedom from coercion” owes a lot to the American experience. It was championed by an American theologian, Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J. who was an advisor to some American bishops at Vatican II. Fr. Murray proposed “a formally juridical concept” of religious freedom. By this he meant that the object of religious freedom from the perspective of the state is not to encourage and foster any values inherent in religious belief and practice. Such values, he claimed, are “judicially irrelevant.” Rather, the object of religious freedom is to protect individuals and groups from undue constraints in regard to the free pursuit of their religion. Thus, religious freedom is “the absence of constraint” or “immunity” from it. In advancing this idea Murray noted that the U.S. Constitution does not affirm or deny the value or lack thereof of any individual’s or group’s religion. Rather, in the First Amendment the government declares itself ‘unqualified’ to sort through religious matters for groups and individuals, while tacitly conceding that a cohesive society needs to have a moral consensus and that openness to religion contributes to human flourishing. In recognizing religious freedom as an innate human endowment, the government assumes an obligation not to interfere with religious belief or practice unless it has a compelling, an overriding interest, or as DH says, “within due limits.” (Many current struggles about religious liberty hinge on the understanding of what those “due limits”, those “compelling interests” are).

3) Murray advanced this judicially neutral view of religious freedom for two reasons: First, he believed that the First Amendment protection of basic freedoms offered the Church a model for advocating how religious freedom might be upheld and advanced throughout the world. Although our history is marred by groups such as the Nativists and Know-Nothings, in the early 1960’s the Catholic Church and religion generally were faring well. The state’s neutrality about religion had brought about peaceful relationships, Murray believed, between Church and State in the United States. He described the protections afforded by the First Amendment as “articles of peace”, a very different situation from many other parts of the world where there were (and are) religious conflicts, even wars. Second, Murray proposed a judicially neutral concept of religious freedom because he felt it was the best way for a pluralistic society, which allows broad freedoms of speech and expression, to recognize religious freedom as a universal right, common to people of differing religious persuasions or none at all. Indeed, the 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights takes such a position.

4) Of course, it was no easy task to insert such a view into a church document; as we saw, many believed that Murray’s view would lead to religious indifferentism, that is, the view that one religion is as good as another. And what if the moral consensus on which this judicially neutral concept of religious freedom depends were to break down, (as arguably it has)? Would a society torn apart by competing moral and religious claims set the stage for the government’s refereeing those claims? To be sure, Murray did not believe in religious indifference or moral relativism. He wrote clearly on our personal obligations to pursue the truth but felt that a neutral or judicial approach to religious liberty was the best approach from the perspective of constitutional order, laws, and public policy.

5) This notion of religious freedom as the absence of or immunity from coercion was included in DH but it was not the last word. The Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla and some French bishops challenged Murray’s notion of religious freedom, not because it was wrong but because they thought it was incomplete. As we saw in preliminary question # 3, Wojtyla and others were encouraging the Council to adopt in DH and elsewhere a more profoundly theological account of human dignity. A merely neutral view of religious freedom, emptied of all content, does not fully take into account the transcendence of the human person, made by God in his likeness and endowed with reason and free will. But it is precisely in human transcendence, this in-built orientation toward the divine, that human rights have their origin. When religious freedom is linked to the human search for truth and for God, we can see more readily that God, not the state, grants our basic freedoms; when religious freedom is thought of as the mere absence of coercion, we can see how a government might claim to be not just the guarantor but the grantor of religious freedom and other basic rights.

6) Wojtyla and his allies greatly influenced the final shape of DH. While acknowledging the duty of the state not to interfere with religion, DH roots religious liberty in human nature: “In addition, this Council declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person known from both the revealed word of God and reason itself” (DH, 2). The text goes on to say, “It is in accord with their dignity that all men and women, because they are persons, endowed with reason and free will and thus privileged with personal responsibility, are impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially the truth concerning religion” (DH, 2). DH further teaches the right to religious freedom is founded not merely in personal views and preferences but in human nature itself (cf. DH, 2).

7) Archbishop Wojtyla, Bishop Ancel and others thus made explicit the link between religious freedom and truth – as the future Pope John Paul II said – “Non datur libertas sine veritate” – “there is no liberty without truth”. There is no liberty unless the full truth about the human person and the in-built orientation of the human person toward God is acknowledged. Liberty respects the obligation of the human person, rooted in his very nature, to seek for the truth with regard to morality and religion. Any government and any society that would protect religious freedom must also respect the truth about human transcendence and must encourage its citizens to seek for moral and religious truth. Any society that seeks to be just – that protects human dignity; fosters the common good; creates human solidarity; and supports societal institutions such as the family— must respect the obligation of the human person to search for moral and religious truth and must indeed encourage that search as a societal good… …much as George Washington, in his Farewell Address, identified religion and morality as two indispensable supports for democracy.

8) When Wojtyla argued for the link between religious freedom and truth, he was drawing on his depth as a philosopher and a theologian but also on his experience of living in a country where the full truth about the human person was eclipsed by the overarching claims of a totalitarian state. He knew that secular democratic states could also eclipse human dignity absent any fixed moral truths rooted in human nature. For when basic truths about human dignity, morality, and justice are up for grabs, then they are grabbed by the powerful who proceed to impose their views on others, the stronger, the more powerful, the more influential on the weaker. He was also wary the idea of limiting religious freedom for the sake of public order. Wojtyla knew that public order claims could be expansive, even dominant. He ensured that DH would take a more nuanced view. Any limits on religious liberty for the common good should be rooted, he said, in the requirements of the natural moral law, the law of God written on our hearts, known by reason but understood more fully in the light of divine revelation. Religious freedom is violated when a government constrains individuals and religious groups from following the natural law. In an era of government regulations opposed to the natural moral law, the future Pope’s words seem prophetic.

B. I’ve lingered over the question of freedom because it’s the heart of the document so let’s move quickly to two remaining “content” questions, beginning with this: What does revelation say about religious freedom?

1) In fact, Part Two of DH is entitled, “Religious Freedom in the Light of Revelation.” In other words, beyond our natural powers of reasoning, what does God’s revealed word tell us about religious freedom? Well, to begin with, religious liberty is not a clear and distinct biblical concept. Rather, it arises out of the image of the Savior as “meek and humble of heart”: Jesus listened compassionately to those he encountered and showed mercy to erring sinners while challenging them to conversion; He taught us about the weeds and wheat growing in the field while warning us that one day we would have to give an account of our freedom; And he acknowledged the legitimacy of civil power “but clearly warned that the higher rights of God must be upheld” (DH, 11); It was the Lord who taught us that “the truth will set you free.” Out of this image of Christ emerges the consistent teaching of the Church, namely, “that man’s response to God in faith should be voluntary” (DH, 10). In Scripture we see how the Lord draws us to himself and evokes from us a free response of love. DH invites us to see that wholehearted faith in Christ and in his Church is the ultimate fulfillment of the God-given gift of human freedom.

2) Let me note in passing that the document sees no conflict here between what reason and revelation each teach about religious freedom; on the contrary, revelation confirms what reason attains and reason itself is open to the light of Revelation.

C. A final content question is this: Is religious freedom related to evangelization? The answer is “yes”; indeed the declaration opens with the Lord’s commission to the Apostles to go spread the Gospel and to baptize in the name of the Trinity. So let me mention several ways DH contributes to the New Evangelization:

1) First, DH connects individual religious liberty and communal religious liberty, that is, to the Church’s freedom to fulfill the mission given her by the Lord. Since religious freedom is anchored in human nature, the individual person is the primary subject of religious liberty; yet religious bodies and groups also have a right to religious freedom. How are these two expressions of religious freedom related? First, they are related in the innate relatedness of human beings to God and others. We live not as isolated individuals but indeed as members of communities and thus our rights and dignity transmigrate to the communities we form, including and especially our religious communities.

Thus DH teaches that individual believers who open their hearts to God “in interior acts that are voluntary and free” have a right to “express those interior acts externally, participating with others in religious matters and professing [their] religion in a communal way (DH, 1). Conversely, the Church, as a spiritual authority, must have “as much freedom in action as the care of man’s salvation demands” (DH, 13). DH goes on to teach that the Church “claims for herself freedom as a society of men and women who enjoy the right to live in civil society according to the precepts of the Christian faith” (DH, 13). So the state has an obligation to protect the religious liberty both of individuals and of churches and church communities.

2) A corollary follows. The dimensions of religious freedom are the same for individuals and for groups: both have the right of free inquiry; both have the right to search for truth & for God; both have the right to proclaim their faith both within the church and in public. Both have the right and the duty to seek the truth, to hold fast to it once it is known, and “to order their whole life in accord with its demands” (DH, 2). For individuals, this extends to going about one’s daily work in accord with the moral demands of the Gospel and includes the right of individuals to bear witness to their faith even when its teachings are countercultural. So too churches are entitled “to govern themselves according to their own norms” in fulfillment of their mission (cf. DH, 8). Beyond that, religious communities enjoy the right to influence society (DH, 8) and to contribute to the common good (cf. DH, 6).

3) Among the ways the Church contributes to the common good is its consistent teaching on the transcendent dignity of the human person, a teaching it puts to work in an amazing array of ministries that serve those in need. After the right to life, religious freedom is the first of all human rights because it pertains to man’s relationship to God, the very ground of each person’s life. Thus religious freedom is the source of all the other rights and freedoms. Part and parcel of the New Evangelization is this message of human dignity: the sacredness of human life and the defense of God-given freedoms. That message is crucial whether it is borne witness to in a totalitarian state or in increasingly secular societies such as our own.

IV. Current Threats to Religious Freedom

A. Well, by now one thing is clear. If I worked for Cliffs Notes, I’d be fired. My “summary” on the meaning of freedom in DH took longer than anticipated. So let us move quickly to bring all of this down to earth by reflecting on current challenges to religious freedom in light of DH. These challenges include efforts to reduce religious freedom to freedom of worship and increasing attempts by governments to interfere in the internal life of churches. They include attempts to encroach on the freedom of churches to hire for mission and to provide benefits plans in accord with their moral teachings. Church-run social services face licensure challenges if they don’t buckle under and many church adoption services have been forced to close down. Christian colleges face threats to accreditation because of their Christian identity and religious groups on college campuses face free-speech and assembly challenges. We’ve seen battles in various states over attempts to pass RFRA laws, that is, religious freedom restoration legislation which stipulate that state government can intervene in religious matters only when there is a compelling interest, using the least restrictive means. Likewise Obergefell, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, has raised a host of religious freedom challenges. This list is long, so allow me to focus only on three major threats we currently face.

B. First is the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere. All of us have seen the heartbreaking images on television of young Christian men about to be beheaded by ISIS. Some of the most ancient Christian communities have been uprooted & many monuments of antiquity, including Christian antiquity, have been destroyed. I have visited with bishops from places like Aleppo and Erbil whose people have been decimated by what the State Department, at the urging of the Knights of Columbus, finally declared to be genocide. This is obviously a massive violation of human rights but it is especially important for us to realize that these innocent people are losing their lives because they are Christian. The jihad conducted by ISIS and other extremists is more than a denial of religious freedom; it is an effort to eradicate Christianity and Christians from the Middle East, parts of Africa and to intimidate Christianity in the West. Let us pray for these, our sisters and brothers in the Lord, continue our relief efforts through the Knights of Columbus, the Order of Malta, CRS, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, and many other agencies.

C. A second major threat to religious freedom is the HHS mandate. Let’s begin with a refresher on what the HHS mandate is and why it’s objectionable.

1) The Affordable Care Act provides that “preventative” services be provided by employers at no cost to employees. It gave the Department of Health and Human Services authority to create mandates that would stipulate what those “preventative” services would include and how employers would include such services in their healthcare plans. At the urging of Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute and others, HHS mandated that contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and reproductive counseling for young people would be among the services that employers would be required to provide in their employee healthcare plans.

2) The first version of the HHS mandate in 2011 had no religious exemptions and so the department was faced with a massive number of complaints. So, in its second iteration, HHS created a provision for religious employers. It declared that some religious entities like parishes are exempt. Therefore, they do not have to include these objectionable services in their plans. But other religious entities such as Catholic Charities and schools are “less religious” and therefore they are not exempt but rather, “accommodated”.

3) Before describing the “accommodation”, let’s reflect on how HHS has classified church ministries. Here the government has made a distinction about the Church’s life that the Church itself neither makes nor accepts as true. We don’t believe that our charities and schools are less religious than our parishes. We teach that faith and worship give rise to charity, service, and mercy – to organized charities and schools and other church ministries that serve the common good. So the government is intruding on the Church’s right to its own self-understanding not to mention its right to be governed according to its own norms.

4) So what about this so-called “accommodation”? Objecting church organizations were told that all they had to do was to sign a form indicating that they object to providing contraceptive services. Did that solve the problem for conscientiously objecting church groups? Not if you ask the Little Sisters of the Poor and their allies, because in signing that form that says “no” they would really end up saying “yes”. In the very act of objecting to including contraceptive services in their plans, they give the government permission to highjack their insurance plans and make them the delivery vehicle for the very services they objected to. In oral argumentation before the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General admitted as much but went on to say that the government has a compelling interest in delivering these services not only cost-free but seamlessly, even though many large for-profit corporations remain exempt and the legislative history of ACA does not bear out the Solicitor General’s assertion that the delivery of these services was meant to be seamless.

5) Now the Supreme Court has taken the unusual step of inviting another briefing and even suggested a way around making objecting organizations complicit. As I understand it, groups such as Little Sisters would not sign a form. Instead they’d work with their insurer, as we do now, to come up with a plan that is free of any objectionable provisions, such as sterilization, abortion, etc. The insurance company, realizing that contraceptive services are left out, would then be free to market them to the employees of the Little Sisters. What is unclear is whether these insurers could use employee contact information in order to do targeted marketing or whether the marketing would be more general. Some who read the proposal of the Supreme Court see it as only another version of the accommodation dressed up in new clothes. You can imagine that the plaintiffs are hard at work submitting an alternate proposal that really will eliminate complicity, that is to say, any use of church plans to deliver services against our moral teachings, and maximize our freedom to catechize employees about the Church’s teachings.

6) What’s at stake here, though, is not merely moral casuistry – it’s not merely a question of whether we are complicit in providing services and to what degree such complicity might be morally permissible. Isn’t it more about forming in our institutions a culture of life? That’s what religious freedom is all about— not merely escaping immorality by the skin of our teeth but rather about creating workplaces that bear witness to our mission and having the freedom to form our employees to be on board with that mission. Religious freedom should allow us to operate in accord with who we say we are rather than to be told by the government who we are and how we should operate. So stay tuned. We don’t know how this is going to turn out but I would like to express my gratitude to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and all the plaintiffs and their attorneys, especially the Becket Fund and Jones Day.

D. Finally, let’s recall that DH teaches that religious freedom means that Christians should be able to order their whole lives according to the teachings of their faith but that freedom is now “in the dock”, especially for small business owners. Hobby Lobby won an impressive Supreme Court victory against the HHS mandate but HHS has now offered them an accommodation much like it offered church plans. So despite their impressive victory, they are in the crosshairs once again. Small businesses that do not wish to be involved in same sex wedding ceremonies continue to undergo a real form of persecution in the form of fines and “re-training”. More than a few have been run out of business. In a post-Obergefell world, those who want to run a closely held business with a Christian orientation now face challenges in hiring and benefits, often running afoul of local and state anti-discrimination ordinances. As we have seen, enacting state RFRA protections for churches and closely held businesses has become increasingly difficult because of alliances with large businesses, the LGBT community and elected officials. That train left the station a long time ago and it is difficult to stop.

V. What Can We Do?

A. As we draw to a close let me offer a few suggestions about what we can do. It is the laity who has the principal responsibility in shaping a just society and in carrying forward what St. John Paul II called ‘the evangelization of culture.’ That is no easy mission in these days in which we are living.

1) My first suggestion is to pray each day for persecuted Christians abroad and for the restoration and preservation of religious freedom at home. Pray for elected officials, for judges, for church officials & others in the crosshairs, and pray that our electorate will come at last to its senses. Pray for good and wise leaders to guide our country. An important opportunity is the Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 – July 4). The theme is “witnesses to freedom” and will feature a tour of the relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher…information available on the USCCB website.

2) A second suggestion is for us to take Pope Francis at his word by deepening our relationship with Christ and undergoing a “missionary conversion” such that you and I will be true agents of the New Evangelization. For as President Garvey of Catholic University once said, “If we want to defend religious freedom, we need to love God more.” As we reawaken the faith in ourselves and among our fellow Catholics, the religious freedom protections afforded by our system of government are more highly esteemed than seems to be the case at the present moment.

3) A third suggestion to make use of the networks already existing in the Church such as state Catholic conferences to make our views known to elected officials. Opponents of religious freedom are organized, savvy, and active whereas, many times, the children of light tend to be more passive. And while the Church does not engage in partisan politics, you can be politically active in helping to raise up and elect candidates for office that will uphold the basic freedoms and values of our country and allow churches, families, and other societal institutions to flourish.

4) A fourth suggestion is to make our voices heard when large corporations align with those who would trammel religious freedom. When state RFRA laws are in play, these companies are prime opponents because they have heard from the LGBT community and others but they seldom hear from us either directly or in the choices we make as consumers. Let us not be a sleeping giant.

5) A fifth suggestion pertains to education. You’ve been very kind to spend time with me this afternoon reflecting on the Church’s teaching on religious liberty and I know you continue to develop your knowledge of the faith in many ways. But think of how many young people, including millennials, haven’t a clue about our constitutionally protected freedoms, about our system of government, and about the true meaning of freedom. How many young people have gone to schools where the Church has been portrayed simply as a bad actor in the formation of Western civilization and to colleges and universities (including sadly Catholic institutions) where the fundamental freedoms and values are undermined. It’s time we demand better from our schools and urge our adult children to focus more intently on the task for forming their children in the ways of truth and freedom.

6) A last suggestion (very much related to the second suggestion) is that we consider the avenues of influence open to us all. Can we engage our own members of Malta and the Knights to help move the needle? There is no substitute for the apostolate of personal influence. This means that all of us need to consider our networks, those with whom we work and socialize. Are we doing all we can to influence them in the ways of truth and freedom? Are we helping them to see what is at stake in these debates and struggles.

B. Finally, let me thank you, for while I am boldly making suggestions you are already doing most if not all of what I am suggesting, and maybe more; and I know you are wonderful friends and co-workers in this struggle. Let us be of good cheer, praying for the grace to respond to our calling to help create a civilization of truth and love and to bequeath a better world to those who come after us!

Thanks for listening! God bless our Church! God bless our country!